Holy Week in Riobamba is lived through faith and traditions revolving around it. It is a time when christians celebrate the passion, crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ.
On Holy Tuesday Riobamba celebrates the oldest tradition in Ecuador and one of the most crowded, the Procession of the Lord of Good Success. Balconies along the route are adorned with flowers as they witness the passing of the holy image of the Patron of the city. Joining the procession are the “cucuruchos,” the holy souls, the baron saints, parishioners, live interpretations of the crucifixion of Christ, and public and private institutions that with devotion thank for favors (and ask for others).
Homo Ecce Christ
History tells that the “Convento de las Madres Conceptas” convent in ancient Riobamba used to have an enormous tree. The Abbess, or Mother Superior, ordered to have that wood sculpted into a figure of Saint Joseph. She delegated a mulatto to take the wood to the famous “Escuela de Arte Quiteña” or Quito Art School so that the best artisans could begin the sculpture but the sculptor delayed the work because the wood was too hard.
The person in charge came to supervise the work and the sculptor, as he recognized that he was not advancing, asked if he could begin a new sculpture. The supervisor told him to elaborate a Homo Ecce Christ, close to crucifixion. In that moment the artist began to sculpt it. The work was completed earlier than expected… the wood had turned as soft as butter. Once finished, the sculpture was taken to the Valley of Los Chillos where the best Quiteño painters were found.
One miracle after the other
The painting was taking long because the artists utilized various painting techniques. One day the sculptor left his workshop, closing it behind him. The people that were close observed light come from within the workshop and thought it was fire. As they brought down the doors they found a finished sculpture. It was a work of angels.
The news soon spread through the monasteries of Quito. They wanted to retrieve the effigy, but had no success. It was so heavy that it couldn’t be moved.
The supervisor came to look at the sculpture, and said: “Sir, to the Monastery of Riobamba Sir.” The image, in front of the crowd, moved its right foot in front of the other, in affirmation.
This sculpture survived the earthquake of February 4th, 1979 which destroyed ancient Riobamba. It was the statue that chose the place where the convent of the Madres Conceptas now rests in the new Riobamba. While a procession was taking place, the sculpture became very heavy when it came close to the convent. It chose to stay there, and for this reason the Conception convent was built there, in the middle of Juan Larrea Street, better known as the “street of faith.” Along Juan Larrea street people pray and cross themselves in an act of christian devotion.
The image of the Good Success is attributed many miracles. The Madres Conceptas are its custodies, the effigy rests on the main altar of the Church of Immaculate Conception. There it waits to be taken in arms and carried for the procession of every Holy Tuesday, performed in his honor.
The visit of the Seven Churches
Another of the cultural manifestations central to Holy Week is the visit of the seven churches during Holy Thursday to represent the passion of Jesus- who had to carry the cross through hills and slopes before being crucified on Holy Friday.
Taking advantage of the influx of catholics for the visit of the seven churches, several activities that revolve around religious tourism take place. Events include the projection of mapping and illumination in Heritage Sites (churches) of the historical core of the city, christian music concerts and a dramatized guide through the city (you’re guided by cucuruchos and other traditional Holy Week characters). These religious activities attract locals and tourists, becoming cultural manifestations that strengthen tourism in Riobamba.